Winter Park Day Nursery

K-Ready Community Initiative

Ms. Ali had the pleasure of participating in the K-Ready Community initiative ( since just prior to the global pandemic. In 2022, their group took on a research and planning project funded by Helios Education Foundation. This process resulted in some important key findings and recommendations just published in November 2023. The full report to Key Findings and recommendations can be found here.

This report shows the important findings we must work toward to keep early care and education options viable for all families. With the support of the Early Learning Coalition of Central Florida, funders like Helios Foundation and community advocates, we can help move the needle on increasing awareness in support of the early care and education industry which is the backbone to economic growth in our communities.

The Culture of Caring at Winter Park Day Nursery

Sheets of construction paper receive a healthy dose of glue as chatter, laughs, and occasional shouts fill the classroom at Winter Park Day Nursery. While aspiring young artists create the morning’s art project, instructors and assistants continue a tradition that dates back to 1939. Winter Park Day Nursery was founded during a time when mothers, working at the local citrus packing plant, would need their elementary school-age children to miss classes in order to care for their preschool-age siblings. Elementary school principal, Dr. Nelson Glass, worked with a local church group to create the day school as a means of getting older children back to class and providing younger children with daycare and an educational foundation.

To read the rest, visit The Culture of Caring at WPDN by Jim Carchidi with the32789!

Early-childhood education is in crisis | Commentary



The early childhood education industry is in crisis and has been for many years. The is cost is typically too high for the clientele, yet the revenues are not high enough to cover basic operational expenses. This business model failure, heightened by economic strain of the pandemic, leaves many preschools and early childhood organizations without viable operational alternatives.

The child-care system, like health care, affects most of us at some time in our lives. Some families depend on it to keep their livelihood while others only need it periodically; however, the issues remain the same. While not everyone may be reliant on the institution, everyone should feel as though services are available to them. Most people view both early childhood education and health care as “you get what you pay for” industries, associating high quality with high price. How can we improve access to early childhood education without sacrificing quality and affordability?

Early childhood education is a two-generational workforce issue and a cornerstone of a functional economy. Research indicates that children develop strong social and cognitive skills with exposure to quality early child care, and parents or caretakers depend on child-care programs to provide them the time to work and engage in our local economy. Organizations like the Winter Park Day Nursery do not just support children through child-care services. They also aim to stabilize the family unit to keep our community thriving by providing food and clothing pantries, as well as emergency relief funding for families in crisis. To continue to provide for these families, we need to change the way early childhood education is supported and funded by the community.

Though tuition may seem high for families, it is often the only source of revenue child-care programs receive. While there may be some state funding for programs such as VPK, School Readiness and Food Program, it is supplemental to families’ tuition costs.

Staffing shortages and demand for well-deserved higher wages have driven operational costs higher. 60-70 percent of child-care expenses go toward staffing, despite historically low wages in the industry (on average between $11 and $17 per hour).

Most organizations are reliant upon the generosity of individuals or local business leaders to keep our doors open. Changes should be made to integrate early childhood education into the broader community educational ecosystem.

To continue to equip our children for future success, early-childhood education professionals and programs need to be respected in the community at the same level of their K-12 peers. Care at this early age is just as important, given the formative development that occurs in early stages.

State support should extend to children from birth to age 5, rather than starting in kindergarten, through increases in per student funding for School Readiness and VPK children. Until local legislators and community leaders view early childhood education in the same light as primary school, we will see more early childhood education programs closing their doors, leaving many families unable to work and children without qualified school readiness programs and care.

photo by Rafael Tongol, Winter Park Magazine





Ali DeMaria always thought she wanted to work with children. But after graduating from the University of Colorado with a degree in psychology, she didn’t have a more specific career path in mind. “So, I waited tables,” she says. “Isn’t that what all psychology grads do?” During college, she had taken a semester off to lifeguard at Walt Disney World and work as a server at Planet Hollywood in Disney Springs, where she developed a fondness for Central Florida’s warm weather. After graduating, she relocated from the chilly Rocky Mountains and took a job as trainer and server at Mimi’s Cafe at the Mall at Millenia. Little did she know, she was setting the table for her future. “I found myself spending more time with the children of the guests than the adults,” she says. “I was carrying babies around with me in the restaurant while the families ate.” Suddenly, her path was clear. DeMaria added “interested in working with children” to her CareerBuilder profile and soon got a call from the Winter Park Day Nursery, a beloved local institution founded in 1939 to serve working mothers whose husbands were in the military during World War II. DeMaria joined the nonprofit nursery in 2005 as a teacher, and later became family services coordinator and director of education before then-board chair David Isaacson, an investment advisor, made her an offer that she thought she could refuse: executive director. “I don’t have a business degree,” she told him, “I’m six months pregnant. Are you sure this is what you want to do?” Isaacson was sure — and a decade later, no one has any regrets. DeMaria, who turned 40 in January, found her calling as a director who “has done pretty much every job in the building.” She has raised staff retention — which for decades fluctuated between 40 and 60 percent — to 92 percent. She and her husband, Geoff Lee, have a son: Dillon, 8, who was the inspiration for arguably her most notable achievement — adding a program at the nursery for infants and toddlers. And all the while she’s kept learning, earning a master’s degree in mental health counseling and a certificate in marriage and family therapy from Rollins College in 2010 and 2011. Shortly thereafter, she also notched advanced level childcare and education program director credentials from the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Article in Winter Park Magazine


Who is Ali? 

Alessandra (Ali) DeMaria, M.A.,
Executive Director, Winter Park Day Nursery, Inc.

Ali DeMaria grew up in Colorado where she attended the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology.  After moving to Florida and working in the hospitality field, Ali sought a more meaningful work experience, bringing her to the Winter Park Day Nursery (WPDN).  She was hired in 2005 as a teacher assistant in the two – year old classroom and soon had earned her Florida Child Development Staff Credential through coursework at Seminole State College.  After taking on progressively more administrative duties at the day nursery, Ali was encouraged to further her education.  She graduated from Rollins College’s Master of Arts degree program in Mental Health Counseling, while also earning a Certificate in Relationship and Family Therapy.  While working on her counseling degree, Ali created the Family and Behavior Services position at WPDN.  She was promoted to Director of Education in 2010.  At this time, she began working toward her Advanced Level Florida Child Care and Education Program Director Credential, which she earned from the Florida Department of Children and Families.  In late 2011 Ali accepted a promotion to the chief executive role of the Winter Park Day Nursery and continues to serve in this capacity.  In 2013 she earned a certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Rollins College Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership Center. 

Ali has worked diligently to increase Winter Park Day Nursery’s profile in Central Florida as the source for high quality care and education and also for its commitment to empowering all children and families to work toward a stronger, safer, healthier community.  She is accomplishing this through her involvement in the Orange County League of Women Voters where she actively serves on the Education and Speakers Committees.  In 2014 she also became a member of the Rotary Club of Winter Park, where she actively serves on both the Club Service and Community Service Committees.  She also is a graduate of Leadership Winter Park (Class XXII), a program of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce that identifies and promotes potential leaders from the business community by offering a behind the scenes look at and study of the critical issues and challenges facing Winter Park.  She remains involved in the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce as an active Leadership Alumni.  She also has served as a member of the Florida Department of Children and Families Childcare Advisory Committee and the Orlando Tech Early Childhood Education Program Advisory Committee.   

Ali has been married to her husband, Geoff, since 2008.  Their son, Dillon, was born in April 2012.

Did you know… 

Every month WPDN shares a newsletter with our families about what is happening at the school. This newsletter is posted on our website. Please feel free to check in on the website every now and then to get caught up on the little things happening at our amazing school! The parent newsletter can be found under the “Families” tab.


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If you want to donate items we use regularly to the school, you can do so through our Amazon Wish List!

WPDN is now equipped to receive gifts of Stock! There is now a link on our website with more information on how to use a gift of stock and other securities to invest in the future of the children at WPDN!

Easy ways to donate to WPDN:
Using eBay + eBay for Charity = WPDN donations
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We are so grateful for all the support our children receive from the community.